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Brussels honours filmmaker Chantal Akerman with new mural

16:08 07/10/2023

Brussels’ aim to include more female names in public places – with the Annie Cordy tunnel a notable example – is continuing, with two accolades to a famous female filmmaker.

The City of Brussels has inaugurated a new mural in honour of the Brussels-born film director Chantal Akerman (1950-2015) on the corner of Quai aux Barques and Rue Saint-André. It has also renamed the central stretch of Quai du Commerce the Drêve Chantal Akerman.

The new mural shows a scene from one of Akerman’s most famous films, the award-winning Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.

“The opportunity was too good not to use this reference and thus honour one of the most talented filmmakers of all time,” said Anaïs Maes, Brussels municipal councillor for public spaces.

In the 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, Akerman, then only 25, depicts the life of a young Brussels widow, mother and prostitute.

It is a haunting film, more than three hours long, where Jeanne does nothing but cook, clean and look after her husband and son until she starts working as a prostitute to make ends meet, with tragic results. In 2022, the British Film Institute magazine Sight and Sound named it the best film of all time.

Other influential films and documentaries from the filmmaker, who was born to Jewish Holocaust survivors in Etterbeek but lived most of her life in Paris, include La Chambre, Je, Tu, Il, Elle and the moving News From Home - a selection of anxious letters from her mother.

Akerman, said to be profoundly affected by her mother’s death in 2014, committed suicide one and a half years later, in 2015.

Film buffs interested in Akerman – who knew she wanted to make films from the age of 15 after seeing Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou (1965), will be treated to a major exhibition of her work at Bozar next year, from 14 March to 21 July.

A comprehensive retrospective of her work is also planned from March 2024 at Brussels’ film centre Cinematek.

Photo: Gabriel Mitran/Belga

Written by Liz Newmark